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Hunt had called Devin Juhle and Sarah Russo within minutes of his initial sighting of the tire iron, but they'd been in the field on another matter and hadn't checked back in with him until lunchtime. Meanwhile, he'd taken down Cecil Rand's vitals and promised to keep him anonymous at least until it was determined if the tire iron out in the mud was tied in any way to the death of Dominic Como.

After Rand had gone, Hunt then tried again to reach Nancy Neshek, but she hadn't come in to her office at Sanctuary House this morning-evidently a regular occurrence, what with her fund-raising duties and/or women in crisis situations, and she still wasn't answering at home.

He'd then checked in with Tamara to see about any new leads. He decided that talking to two more people who identified themselves as members of Canard's Palace Duck group probably wasn't even worth Mickey's time, and he himself wasn't inclined to call Belinda (no last name), a psychic who, if put in close contact with Como's body, could re-create his last hours, and thus probably shed enormous light on the murder.

And reluctant to abandon his post lest someone come and remove his possible evidence while no one was guarding it, he put his back up against a tree and waited.

Now, finally, Juhle and Russo stood with Hunt at the concrete edge of the mud flat that had once been the lagoon. The cloud cover had mostly burned off and now the mud had a dull s.h.i.+ne, making identification of anything somewhat problematic. "And even if I see it, which I don't," Juhle was saying, "how do you know it has anything to do with anything?"

"I don't. But it's there, all right," Hunt said. "And since it might be evidence in a murder you're investigating, I thought you'd call those fine upstanding people from Crime Scene Investigations to collect it for you."

"I'm going to go look at it," Russo said.

"Are you s.h.i.+tting me?" Juhle asked. "It's knee-deep mud out there, Sarah. And you can't touch it till CSI gets here anyway."

"I'm not going to touch it. But we're not calling CSI if it turns out it's a pipe that's been in this lagoon for a hundred years. You guys watch my shoes." And she sat on the wall and started removing them.

"All right." Juhle sat next to her. "G.o.d d.a.m.n it. I'll do it."

"Aw, Dev. You're so cute when you get all guy-protective." She held out a hand to him. "But, I'm good, really. I'm a mom, after all. I've already waded through tons and tons of s.h.i.+t. And this is only mud. I'll think of it as a spa treatment. But you, Wyatt," she added, "you better point me straight at it or I'll arrest your sorry a.s.s on any charge I can think of or even one I make up."

Hunt turned to Juhle. "She's a little harsh, don't you think?"

"You want to see harsh, point me even a little bit the wrong way." And so saying, she finished tucking her socks into her shoes. Next she rolled up the bottoms of her pants and swung herself around, lowering hersel

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